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Gerald R. Rees Papers: Transcripts - MS 1007

Gerald ReesĀ Correspondence - July 1943

July 2, 1943

Camp Barkeley, Texas

July 2, 1943

Dear Folks,

Well, something new everyday! You remember I mentioned a small growth on my toe which was to be cut out? Wednesday I reported over to the minor surgery ward expecting to spend maybe a half-hour or so, and I'm still here in the hospital. it seemed silly to me because the toe wasn't sore or anything, but it turned out to be more complicated than that. They removed my toe-nail and found that the darned growth was actually attached to, and part of, the bone itself. Of course there was no sensation in the toe, and I really found it very interesting. The M.D. did a very skillful job. The joker is that they are keeping me here for several days in the hospital while it heals. We had just been studying the operation of an army hospital ward, so I'm finding the whole experience very interesting. The toe doesn't hurt now, so it's just like spending a few days vacation here. The only hitch is that I don't get paid while here. Another hitch is that no one has brought me my tooth brush, razor, or mail yet.

The food is really swell, and there is plenty of reading material, so I'm not complaining. I will be glad when they bring me my pen instead of this thing.

The fellow in the next bed lived in Germany until 1939, and has been in a concentration camp, so you can bet that we have some exciting conversations. He is a good talker, and doesn't seem to mind telling his experiences. His stories of life under Hitler are just like reading a best-seller. He lived in Munich, and has been watching Hitler's activities there from the beginning. I wish I were a writer and could put down his conversations the way some people can. He is convinced that most of the people in Germany will rise up and help the invaders when they come. Also the millions of workers Hitler has brought in from occupied countries and who are treated "like niggers in Texas" will form a very formidable army when the time comes.

Each ward here is a separate building, connected only by long ramps, so we have windows on both sides, and a sun porch. The hospital covers many city blocks because of this construction; I think it's a fine idea. Our ward has about 36 beds, filled mostly by minor surgery patients. We have two excellent nurses and 2 or 3 ward boys to do the work. In many respects it is as good as I remember Toledo Hosp. to be-minus the frills, of course. My biggest worry is that it is hard to get out of here, once you get in, and I don't want to waste any more time here at Barkeley than I can help.

We got paid Wednesday, and did I take a beating! They took out 2 full months of insurance--$11.00, compulsory bond savings--$3.75, laundry $2.40, and gosh knows what else. I want to have enough on hand for a round-trip ticket home, just in case of a furlough, and that's $25.00; next month my other annual insurance premium comes due. You can see that my bank account will not grow very rapidly.

You'll get this letter after the fourth, so I suppose you went to Uncle Fred's. Did you have chicken?

I have read "MacBeth", several Reader's Digests and Time magazines and have some more to go; I've been wanting to catch up on some of those things for a long time and here's my chance.

I'll write when something interesting happens.

Love,
Ger

July 4, 1943

Camp Barkeley, Texas

July 4, 1943

Dear Mom,

Heck of a way to spend the Fourth-I'm still loafing here at the hospital. The place where the nail was removed is still pretty tender, but I ought to be out in another couple of days. The fellows at my hut must think I'll be back any minute, because they still haven't brought my pen or razor. You should see me in a beard! The only thing that really annoys me is that there are probably letters from home waiting for me, and I can't get them.

Today to celebrate the Fourth, they fed us fried chicken with trimmings and huge pieces of delicious watermelon. The food is really swell here at the hospital. Quantities of fruit and vegetables, and all the milk we want. With about 15 hours of sleep and lots of food every day, I should gain more weight.

I heard part of the symphony today, which was a treat. There is a small radio here. My German refugee neighbor moved out and I got two new ones. One is an ex-Dartmouth boy who knew Bill Swartzbaugh. The other-much to my delight-had gone to Westminster College for three years before he was drafted and had sung with the famous choir. He was going to O.C.S. here and told me about the terrific pounding the officer candidates take. They think up all the things they can to put the boys under a strain, and weed out the ones that can't take it. They flunk candidates out for having round shoulders, or for not having a mirror finish on their shoes all the time. I'm getting more and more respect for these "90-day wonders".

Well, it's not for me. I'm still counting on A.S.T.P. if I ever get out of Barkeley. The place is all right, but it certainly would be a heck of a place to be stationed.

See if you can't get some of the other members of the family to write to me. I still don't have Vernon's address.

Love,
Ger

July 10, 1943

Camp Barkeley, Texas

July 10, 1943

Dear Mom,

This morning something which I still can't believe happened. I received six nice, fat letters, all from people I had been wishing I would hear from. First was one from Eleanor with three swell pictures of Jack; I'll write to her as soon as I think she is back from Grand Rapids. Then I got the card that all the folks signed at Uncle Fred's. That was very nice, only now I feel like I want to write to all of them, and that's a lot of writing. Another letter was from Jack Witte, whom I hadn't heard from since I came to Barkeley. He is at Dartmouth, but is being pushed around by the navy, and doesn't sound too happy. He says that they never imagined Mr. Witte was on Guadalcanal in all the fighting until the Blade received that picture from Hary Mayo. Thanks for sending it, bythe way.

I don't know whether I ever mentioned Miss Kershner to you or not. She was one of my music profs at B.G. and about my favorite. She is the orchestra leader, and gave me string bass lessons out of the kindness of her heart-usually 20 bucks a semester-and always treated us right. Anyhow, she is from Austin, Texas, and is spending the summer there. I got a letter from her today, inviting me there any time I wanted to come. It's only a mere 200 miles, and our longest pass is only good for eight hours, so I guess I won't make it, but the thought was good.

I hope you get the record I sent. The Red Cross makes them for us free. I would have said more, but the darned mike made me nervous and I was afraid I'd stutter all over the place. I also sent a Barkeley paper, which be sure and save.

Yesterday the Red Cross free movie was "Action in the North Atlantic" and was a wonderful picture. The doctor said I'll be out of here the first of the week, and I'll be almost sorry to go; it's good to have a little time to stop and collect myself. The only disadvantage to this stay in the hospital, as I see it, has been that I may be switched to another outfit because I've missed so much training. They say that the limit is ten days, not counting Sundays, so I'll be cutting it pretty close. It would be too bad to have to go into a strange outfit and start over again. Especially when they are about to have a good musical setup. Perhaps you think it's funny they should keep me here so long, but they know what they're doing, and I'm not worrying about it. I can walk some with slippers on, but I'm not ready for 25-mile hikes. It seems funny not to have a toe-nail. At least it can't get ingrown!

I have read "We took to the woods" and "Days of Ofelia", both Book-of-the-Month selections, and very good. The one makes me resolve to spend at least a year in the Maine woods, and the other convinces me that I must see Mexico. Now I am reading Margaret Halsey's "With malice towards some", the story of a young professor and his wife touring Europe; I'm very sure that I will wander around Europe when I'm out of college. I have the wanderlust good and proper now.

Having now razor here, I finally had to get a shave at the hospital barber shop the other day. It was the darnedest feeling! When he started on my adams-apple he tickled me and I wanted to laugh, but I knew that if I so much as chuckled he would slit my throat, so I practiced self control or else.

Hope your new specs came by this time, and your eyes feel better. If you see Dr. Skow again, tell him that my new glasses are the best ones I ever had; as you can tell, I've been reading a lot, and haven't a trace of eye strain. The frames are unbelievably comfortable--I wish you would get the same kind.

The enclosed hunk of lettuce will repay the five I borrowed, and other sundry items like Dr. Skow's bill, postage on my junk, cleaning bill if you had my suit cleaned, and other things I have sponged off of you. Wish I could send more, but----

Will go to work on answering the correspondence, now that I've written the most important letter--the one that goes home.

Love,
Ger

July 12, 1943

Camp Barkeley, Texas

July 12, 1943 (Can't realize it's July yet)

Dear Folks,

I'm out of the hospital now, but don't quite know what the score is yet. Tomorrow they tell me whether I'll have to change units or not. Until I let you know, use the same address. When I got back to my quarters I had bails of mail waiting for me, including about three letters from you. I think I have already answered most of your questions, in previous letters, so that won't be so hard, but I certainly will have a job catching up on my correspondence. It's so good to get letters that I have to answer them all right away. It was good to read the letter you sent from Vernon-I'll have to send him a lot of questions and stuff, and maybe he'll write to me, too.

Earl Gibson is also in the medics, at Louisville, but he only got four weeks of basic and thinks he's going to A.S.T.P at Ohio State. Lucky guy! I'll struggle through 11 or 12 weeks of it and then maybe not make A.S.T.P.

Burton Frost seems to like weather observing all right. He gets to go up to Chicago whenever he wants to-darn it, everyone is having an easier time of it than I am! There ain't no justice. He says Winnie is engaged, and has a teaching job next fall.

Dick Jamieson tells of the "Pop" concert Toledo had, and of the summer opera. It sounds swell. He has reserved a whole box at the concert and "wishes I were there." Do you blame me for being disgusted sometimes?

By all means send the rest of the underwear, and handkerchiefs if you run across any. They get very dirty in no time here.

Certainly hope your glasses get adjusted to your eyes all right. New lenses can drive a person batty, can't they?

Don't worry about my horn-it is waiting for me at the camp post office and I'll get it as soon as I'm settled.

No, my toe isn't healed yet. it is still tender where the nail was, but that can't be helped, and it will take six months to grow out again, the doctor said. Just have to put up with it.

Your idea of a carbon copy is excellent, if you can do three copies at once. Can you? And why don't some of the others pitch in and help on the correspondence a little? I shouldn't talk, though; you've all done very well by me.

Love,
Ger

July 14, 1943

United States Army

July 14, 1943

Dear Folks,

Not the change of address. It's not extremely important, but will get my mail to me with less delay. The 52nd Bn. is in considerably better quarters and in a better part of camp than where I was before. I have a foot locker now, which gives better storage space for my belongings. The fellows here seem like a good bunch, mostly from California and Washington. It's a relief after being surrounded by Carolinians, Missourians and other rabid confederates. Altogether, the change has been for the better, except that it puts me back a couple of weeks.

It's swell to have my horn here. it came through in great shape-not a single mar on the case, and only $1.27. I think that's good service.

There's really no kick coming, I guess; not everyone gets to take a two-week vacation in the middle of their basic training, and that's what my hospital stay amounted to. My foot is O.K. now-doesn't bother much when I walk.

A piece of information that you should and may already know-in case of any emergency in the family or if you are ever worried about the condition of anyone in the service, ask your local Red Cross. They can get through to a service man quicker and more dependably than any other method. And they are the only way that I could get an emergency furlough in case of any sickness in the family. So don't forget-notify the local Red Cross for any quick contact with a service man. They drummed that into us at the beginning, but I guess I forgot to tell you.

The M.R.T.C. band is giving a concert tonight, so I'm going to see what sort of band they have here. Everything' fine in Texas, hope it is in Toledo, Grand Rapids, Newark, San Francisco, and Boca Raton-not to mention Australia.

Love,
Ger

July 18, 1943

United States Army

July 18, 1943

Dear Folks,

Getting established in my new battalion all right, and I think I'm going to like it fine. I went to church this morning and the chaplain gave a very good talk-I don't know why it is, but the army chaplains seem to be able to strike home and get a better reaction than the civilian preachers do. There are twelve good-sized chapels on the post, all holding at least four services every Sunday, besides mid-week services, and all seem to be well attended.

I am writing this in our day-room, or combination recreation hall, writing room, and general loafing spot. It's just a few yards from our barracks, and is very well equipped and furnished. Right now our company commander is playing the piano, and he's really good.

The army is very well taken care of as far as recreation and leisure-time spots, but everywhere you go, there are crowds of other soldiers with the same idea, and the result is that there isn't any peace and quiet or privacy in the army. I suppose I'll get used to it, but right now I have a hankering to be off by myself for a while. Otherwise things are very satisfactory.

Last night I went into Abilene and squandered a couple of bucks on a pair of swimming trunks-my others are worn out, and I certainly will enjoy a little swimming now and then. They just finished a swell pool here. Last night was the first I'd been into town when the stores were open and they seem to be pretty nice. Getting into the town is a headache-waiting in line for a bus for an hour or so, and then standing in the bus for another half-hour. It's not worth the trouble unless I need something pretty bad.

A new postal regulation says that army serial numbers must be on addresses now, so note the addition on my return address.

Hope Eleanor is back by now; I'm writing to her today too. I have ten letters to write today. It serves me right for corresponding with so many people, but they are all folks I want to keep in contact with. The Chikodroffs sent me a little box the other day, and I was sure it was candy and had my mouth all set for it, but it turned out to be this stationery. I was very glad to get it, but....

There are probably more things I should write about, but I can't think of them now.

Hope everyone is well and happy.

Love,
Ger

July 19, 1943

United States Army

Monday night
[July 19?, 1943]

Dear Mom,

Today was a busy one. We started out the morning by hiking four miles in 37 minutes with full pack. That's at a rate of better than 6 miles per hour. Try it sometime. Tomorrow we go over the obstacle course and hike nine miles. This should convince you that my foot is perfectly O.K.-it doesn't bother me at all.

Yesterday I listened to the symphony and then went swimming in the new pool. Things like that make life pretty enjoyable here. As you may have noticed, my last few letters have been not too cheerful, but that's over now. It seems that the busier we are, the better I feel, and the hospital stay kind of discouraged me. But I feel fine now.

The letter I got from you today had good news in it. So Burt got a leave and came to Toledo! I wonder where he'll go next. And Jim Moon-I'd sure like to have talked to him. Did you tell him to write to me? He probably has a new address now, so I won't write to him.

I was delighted to hear that you went to see "Blossomtime." It is a beautiful operetta. Why don't you make Pop take you to things like that oftener? I always felt guilty when I got to go to so many concerts and things that you would have gotten a tremendous thrill out of, and you never got to go. I think with a little tactful persuasion, Pop would buy you season tickets to the concerts at the Art Museum. That would be well worth the money, and you should get to go to them.

I thought that record would cut off on the changer, but knew you could play it on Eleanor's. The Red Cross makes them for patients, and I think it's pretty nice. I wrote out what I wanted to say beforehand so I wouldn't stammer around and spoil it.

Tell Lee Gunn I send his mother my best wishes, but I won't stand for him making any seditious remarks about Mr. Roosevelt, because he is my commander-in-chief now. See what he says!

Don't wear out your eyes writing too many letters. Naturally I am tickled to get letters, but not if I think it is causing you a lot of discomfort.

Lots of Love,
Ger

July 22, 1943

United States Army

Wednesday eve.

July 22, 1943

Dear Folks,

I am very puzzled, and very happy, to get the Toledo Blade in the mail each day-no indication of who is sending it. Maybe you are and have written to tell me about it, but whoever it is, deserves a medal. It's like getting a long letter from home every day. Friday's paper got here yesterday, which is pretty good time, considering it goes over to my old address and has to be forwarded.

I see by the paper that the pipe line from Texas to the east coast is in operation now. Pop-how will this affect you? It seems like it should lighten your work somewhat. The news was especially interesting because we passed through the town which is the southern terminus of the line-Longview. The train passed through an area of several miles which was a veritable forest of oil derricks. It was a real sight, and thrilled me a lot. The local papers in Texas run a whole section of oil news every day. Sometimes when the wind is right, we can smell crude oil here.

Burt wrote me a letter from Toledo telling about his trip, which I was glad to get. Did he tell you what he expects to do after he finishes at Chanute Field? He didn't say anything about it to me.

Another forced march today in the good old Texas sunshine. I'll never complain about heat or long walks again. Boy, this is the limit. One fellow walked in the barracks after the hike and went out like a light-had to be carried away in an ambulance. Usually there's a reason, though-excessive smoking, not enough salt, or something. Most of us will get through all right by taking proper care of ourselves. This sun is nothing to fool with, believe me.

Are you going to take in any more of the operas? I hope so. Arthur Peterson's column in the Blade speaks of an organization in Toledo to promote music next winter. I hope it pans out all right-there's no reason why interest in music should die out just because there's a war on.

The paper says Luckey had robbers the other night-stole Elmer Jacobs' car. Hah!

Well, come nine o'clock and we are really ready for bed.

Love,
Ger

July 24, 1943

United States Army

Friday evening

July 24, 1943

Dear Mom,

Your letter saying that you had ordered the Blade sent to me came today, and I can't say how glad I am to have it coming every day. To Show you how much better it is than the Ft. Worth and San Antonio papers which we have here, the rest of the fellows in the barracks, from California and Utah, who never even heard of the Blade, read it from first page to last-even when it is four days late. Needless to say, I read every word of it. Did you read where the Luckey robbers were caught in Georgia, and turned out to be a couple of our own Wood County boys? Haw! There was a write-up about Winnie Frost, too.

Don't imagine there were many Eckerts at your reunion Sunday, were there? Maybe such things will become wartime casualties. And speaking of rationing, how will you and Pop spend your vacation?

After wracking my brain as much as the heat would permit, the only answer I can offer to Aunt Sadie's "twizzler' is a thumb sum, but that probably isn't it. Give up!

When you mention shortages at home, such as soap, I almost feel guilty, because those things are very plentiful and cheap here.

Have to hurry now-lights out.

Love,
Ger

July 28, 1943

United States Army

July 28, 1943

Dear Folks,

Just finished listening to the President's speech on the radio, and it sure sounded good to me. The plans for after the war are encouraging to the soldiers who are wondering what the heck is going to happen to them after the war. And you can buy all the coffee you want now. My, my. The only trouble now is that civilians are getting cocky and slowing down on the home front.

I was over to the M.R.T.C. library tonight. It is a fine place-has a very large and fine collections of books. If I have to stay here very long I might get so I liked it pretty well. Still can't say much for the weather, though.

Had a very short letter from Lee today. Why didn't you tell me he was a sergeant? I'm the disgrace of the family now-a lowly buck private; and if I make A.S.T.P. I'm likely to remain a private for nine months. It would be worth it.

The Blade comes faithfully every day. Your food situation looks pretty bad, doesn't it? And your weather is probably as bad accordingly as ours is, so I'd better not complain.

Old Mussolini made a pretty ignominious exit to world affairs, didn't he? My bet is that Italy will be out or nearly so by the time this reaches you.

No special news tonight-I just felt like writing. Lights out now.

Love,
Ger

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